In Google’s latest Search Off the Record podcast, they delved into significant aspects of SEO, particularly highlighting the need for SEOs to reconsider their fixation on traffic metrics and prioritize other potentially more crucial objectives.
Is Traffic the Ultimate Yardstick for Success?
A common fallacy among search marketers is tethering their success solely to traffic metrics. Frequently encountered are social media posts or blog articles where a search marketer proudly attributes exponential traffic growth to their strategies, often oversimplifying the outcomes achieved for their clients.
Link builders, content writers, and SEO specialists often hinge their success on traffic metrics. However, the underlying question arises: what impact did this surge in traffic have on sales or ad clicks? If revenue remains stagnant despite increased traffic, the significance of the traffic spike and the SEO efforts directing it might be questionable.
Consulting Pay Per Click experts or affiliate marketers invariably emphasize the paramount importance of conversions over mere traffic. According to them, the crux lies in conversions; traffic alone may not guarantee success.
Adam J Humphreys, CEO of the search marketing and design consultancy Making 8 (as per his LinkedIn profile), shared insights on success metrics, highlighting the need to reassess the importance of traffic against conversions.
“From the outset, I prioritized analytics and grasped the business language, particularly ROAS (Return on Ad Spend). Beyond creating awareness, executives predominantly prioritize ROAS in our discussions.
Our primary role revolves around elevating their business, followed by enhancing awareness.
Surprisingly, measuring attribution from SEO remains to be familiar to many. Vital actions like form submissions and calls must often be more measured and acknowledged. Clients display immense enthusiasm when I shed light on these aspects, as it appears their success has been overlooked for too long.”
Martin Splitt probed further about the correlation between SEO and business impact.
He asked, “When you mention traffic drops, what exactly does that signify to you? Are you solely referring to impressions? Do you navigate to Search Console, delve into the Performance report, and observe a decline in impressions or clicks? Or do you delve deeper into real business implications, such as observing a significant drop in sales—perhaps selling only half as much as the previous month?”
John Mueller shared his perspective on why SEO professionals might not emphasize Return on Investment (ROI) or the impact of SEO on revenue.
He speculated that the time gap between implementing SEO strategies and witnessing their impact might be a contributing factor.
He remarked, “Often, I notice that people predominantly concentrate on the website traffic. They delve into Analytics, observing the influx of visitors, particularly search engine visitors. When that number declines significantly…
…However, ROI or the inherent value of that traffic often takes a backseat, possibly because it involves an extensive lead time. The impact of SEO efforts might yield only a short time. It’s akin to turning off your website now but still having ongoing repercussions or payments lingering before it becomes apparent. It’s a process that might make you go, ‘Wow…'”
Mueller continued discussing why SEO professionals might overlook earnings, highlighting the potential pitfalls of relying solely on website traffic as a performance metric.
He said, “I often find it misleading to fixate solely on website traffic. Even in our case, some time back, our Search documentation page in Canada would rank for the term ‘Google.’ Naturally, it’s expected that the Google website should rank for ‘Google.’ However, while that page attracted a significant influx of traffic, it was essentially irrelevant.
So, when irrelevant traffic is factored in and later dissipates, it might seem like a substantial loss in traffic. Yet, the reality is that these visits were unrelated to your site in the first place.
Hence, it becomes crucial to assess the broader perspective. While acknowledging the decline in overall traffic, it’s equally essential to recognize that a considerable portion of it was of negligible value. Redirecting focus towards analyzing user queries, clicks, impressions, or specific lower-level pages on the site can provide more insightful performance indicators.”
Many traditional SEO practitioners, including myself, acquired expertise through constructing and monetizing websites. Client-oriented SEO work was less prevalent than it is today.
While employing traffic as a metric is beneficial in assessing SEO’s influence, it shouldn’t be the ultimate objective. This stems from the diverse nature of traffic itself.
Not all traffic equates to sales. Some traffic takes time to transition from the initial visit to generating sales, while specific traffic sources contribute significantly to brand recognition.
Conversely, some traffic holds no relevance or usefulness. Understanding these nuances is pivotal in discerning the genuine impact of SEO efforts beyond mere traffic volume.
In assessing traffic declines associated with ranking shifts, gauging their effect on sales is crucial. If there’s no impact on sales, it becomes essential to comprehend why the traffic drop failed to translate into monetary outcomes. In such cases, it might be worthwhile to reconsider the direction of content and SEO endeavors for more effective strategies.
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